President Trump unveiled his new national security strategy today, emphasizing a need for strategic competitiveness among rival powers, and building strength through prosperity domestically, in keeping with his "America First" policy.
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“Our new strategy is based on a principle of realism guided by our national interests and rooted in our timeless values. This strategy recognizes that, whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition,” Trump said.
The strategy outlined three major threats to the United States: “rogue regimes,” including North Korea and Iran, that support terror and pursue weapons of mass destruction; “rival powers,” including China and Russia, that seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth; and “transnational terrorist organizations” including radical Islamist groups that constantly seek new ways to attack the United States.
Trump outlined four pillars of the national security strategy to deal with those threats. First, he emphasized “protecting the homeland and American people,” an effort he said calls for the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, the ending of chain migration and the closing of visa program “loopholes.” Second, “Advancing American prosperity” that calls for fair trade and rebuilding of American infrastructure. Third, “Preserving peace through strength” that he said will be achieved primarily through a build-up and modernization of the U.S. military and fourth, “Advancing American influence abroad” through strong alliances based on reciprocity, with partners paying their fair share.
Trump delivered the speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C., in front of an audience of federal employees, ranging from military personnel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to members of Congress. Many members of the president's cabinet, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, as well as senior adviser Jared Kushner and other White House aides were also in the audience.
The speech outlined what Trump sees as the successes of the administration to date, some of them outside the purview of national security. He touched on the economy and the stock market, job creation, deregulation, the claimed defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and NATO alliances, in a wide-ranging review just a month before he is due to give another review in the State of the Union address.
The national security strategy is a congressionally-mandated report. Neither President Obama nor President George W. Bush chose to present their strategies in a public speech, but President Bush’s strategy became a major rationale for pre-emptive military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Trump did mention the importance of “new domains such as cyber and social media” that could be used to attack or threaten the United States, but the strategy offered little else to counter the types of threats and techniques the intelligence community says were utilized by Russia in influencing the 2016 election.
Trump's strategy also does not consider climate change a threat to U.S. national security, as President Obama’s national security strategy did.
Last week, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster previewed the national security strategy in a speech at an event hosted by U.K.-based think tank, Policy Exchange. McMaster described China’s economic aggression as a threat that is “challenging the rules-based economic order that helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,” and suggested the way to deal with these two threats was “competitive engagement.”
“We have to compete effectively across new domains,” he said. “I think in many ways we evacuated a lot of competitive space in recent years and created a lot of opportunities for those revisionist powers,” McMaster said.